Group defends Travellers after ex-Derbyshire MP says there is ‘no place for their way of living’
Anti-racism campaigners have defended the rights of Travellers – following critical comments by an ex-Derbyshire MP.
Matthew Parris, who was a Tory MP for West Derbyshire between 1979 and 1986, has written a column for The Times in which he mentions a group of Travellers who have set up camp near his home in Matlock.
Headlined ‘It’s time we stopped pandering to Travellers’, Mr Parris said: “There is a place for them, but no longer for their way of living.
“Is there a party, is there a politician in Britain, with the courage to say so?”
The Chesterfield and north Derbyshire branch of Stand Up To Racism described Mr Parris’ column as ‘disgraceful’.
Jeannie Robinson, of the group, said: “Our supporters have been to the site in Matlock, talked to the residents and seen how clean and tidy it is.
“There are toilets and bins provided by the council but no water on the the site – these people have had to buy water for the past many months they have been forced to remain here due to Covid.
“In this disgraceful article Parris says ‘we should stop forcing local authorities to create Traveller sites’ and ‘phase out the ‘ethnic minority’ rights of people who are not a race but a doomed mindset’.
“We want to remind people that Travellers (Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies) are a recognised ethnic minority, whether they travel or not.
“Removing their rights because they don’t all travel is like saying a friend from Barbuda is not Barbudan because she lives in the UK.
“How on earth can you have ‘a blanket ban’ on a whole group of people? No matter how ‘gently’ they are ‘phased out’ doesn’t this have echoes of genocide?”
Ms Robinson said that ‘Travellers on sites pay rent and rates, electricity and the usual costs, and save authorities thousands of pounds that they would have spent on the process of moving Travellers on.’
She added: “In contrast to Parris' attitude, it has been heart warming recently to see support on various Matlock social media sites for the Travellers.
"Let’s continue to support them against racist attitudes like these.”